Calendar Girls June: Favourite Book with LGBTQ+ Representation

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

 

…and my top pick is…

Women by Chloe Caldwell

Women

I absolutely ADORED this book when I first read it last year. I’m sure that literally no-one else will have read it but it remains a firm favourite with me.

Women is a short, stripped down story of a lesbian relationship where nothing much happens but it is just SO REAL. It’s honest and raw and funny and sad and managed to give me all of the feels. It felt like I had stolen someone’s diary and was illicitly gobbling up the details of their life – a bit like when you come across someone who over shares everything on social media and you fall down a rabbit hole stalking  learning everything about them.

I think it’s the quality of the writing. Chloe Caldwell writes with the most unflinching honesty and has elevated the tale of a fairly short lived, obviously doomed relationship from one of navel-gazing self pity to raw exploration of human emotion. I loved that all of her characters were so flawed and that they acted in completely illogical ways because it made them real. I loved the detail, I loved the depth, I loved the characterisation. I even loved the sex scenes because again, they felt so honest. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the sex is detailed but not titillating, relatable but not comedic, orgasmic but not euphemistic. It’s so rare to see a character with unshaven legs and half her clothes still on having incredible sex and it’s this unashamed female gaze/queer perspective that makes this book stand apart.

 

Do you enjoy reading queer fiction? Where do you stand on the issue of #ownvoices?  Have you written your own Calendar Girls post? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

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Calendar Girls May: Favourite Book With A Mother/Daughter Relationship

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls, which I totally forgot to post yesterday! I’m so sorry guys!!!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls may

 

…and my top pick is…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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When I first saw the theme of mother and daughter relationships I was initially a little stumped. I don’t read a lot of novels that focus on family ties so I had to cast around on google for a bit to see what I could come up with. Then it hit me – I was looking for positive, healthy Mum/Daughter bonds… but what about toxic relationships? That’s when I knew exactly which book I’d recommend – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

In the book, Eleanor lives a life of pared down efficiency. Her meals are one pot, one plate. Her shoes are smart but comfortable, with Velcro for quick fastening (none of those inefficient shoe laces). Her role as a finance administrator requires analysis and ordering of numbers, which can be broken down into repetitive tasks and scheduled accordingly. All of this means that Eleanor creates minimal fuss and requires few interactions with other people. Everything seems to be pretty normal (if a bit lonely) until you realise that Eleanor treats vodka like an essential basic grocery and thinks of a pot plant as her one and only friend.

Eleanor struggles with people, and as the book progresses, you start to guess at what might have happened in her childhood to make her so ill equipped to deal with social situations. Apart from having burn scars across her face and body, Eleanor has a very troubling relationship with her mother (Mummy) who she only contacts via telephone for 15 minutes on a Wednesday (and thank God, because this woman is a BITCH). As the book progresses, Eleanor makes some woeful (often hilarious) attempts to make herself more attractive to her crush and through a freak event is forced to spend time with Raymond, who she knows from work. Through this very off-kilter friendship Eleanor begins to accept herself and deal with her past… and her mother.

I thought that Eleanor was such a great character and although she is clearly odd and her life is terribly sad, the novel is written in such a way that you don’t ever feel that you’re laughing at her, or at least not in a malicious way. When she acts inappropriately you can see it’s because she doesn’t understand social norms and never because she aims to cause offence – but to outsiders I suppose she seems aloof or downright rude. It’s this constant formality and awkwardness that made me empathise so much with Eleanor – you can’t help but be completely on her side.

The ending of the book has a fantastic twist that I half guessed at but the sadness of the whole situation really hit me. I loved how Eleanor’s past was hinted at throughout the novel and that by the end of the book everything had come to light. I really liked how what could have been fluffy chick lit was turned into something much more challenging and emotive by offsetting the lighter elements with something far darker. The book is very well written and a fabulous debut – everyone should read it!

 

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant…? Do you have any favourite books with toxic mother/daughter relationships in them? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

Calendar Girls April: Favourite Book with a Surprise Ending

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

…and my top pick is…

Behind Her Eyes by Sara Pinborough

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As soon as I saw the theme for this month’s Calendar Girls, I knew straightaway that there was one book whose surprise ending completely blew me away – and that was Behind Her Eyes. The publishers even started the hashtag #WTFthatending because so many people were talking about it!

The book is about a psychopathic wife, an edge-of-breakdown husband and a nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague who gets embroiled in their dysfunctional marriage. As we explore the web of lies that the couple have created, the nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague uncovers more and more of the truth until things eventually come to a head. However, instead of the expected showdown you get a completely left-field ending that’s so unnerving I’m still thinking about it two years later. Seriously, this is quite a long book and although it trails off a bit in the middle (the wife is mentally ill, we get it) it is so worth it to get to the ending. Trust me.

Although on paper the book does sound a bit like Gone Girl, there is nowhere near the level of creeping tension where each scene in the book is relevant, the next scene builds upon it and everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end. This is more like you have a fair idea that the wife is psychopathic, you’re not sure about the husband, you uncover bits of the past and have an idea of what’s going on and then out of nowhere comes the ending.

There were a couple of weird ideas introduced in the novel that I initially struggled to get to grips with (lucid dreaming anyone?) but after reading the whole book I think the concept actually worked really well – even if it did seem a little incongruous at first.

Minor negatives aside, Behind Her Eyes is a fabulous read and thoroughly deserves all the buzz that was created – WTF that ending indeed!!!

 

Have you read Behind Her Eyes? Do you enjoy books with twists that you don’t see coming? Let me know in the comments! 

 

Calendar Girls March: Favourite Book With a Strong Female Lead

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls march

…and my top pick is…

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Skyward is the story of Spensa who lives on the planet Detritus, which, as the name suggests, is a junk planet abandoned by it’s previous inhabitants. She was born there to a family who were crew members on a fleet of spacecraft that crash landed on the planet following a battle with their enemies, the Krell aliens. The survivors created a subterranean world for themselves but faced aeriel attacks from the Krell. They began building spaceships to fight back and as the daughter of a previously disgraced pilot, all that Spensa wants is to sign up to fight. Those in charge, however, have other ideas.

Unusually for a sci-fi novel (especially one written by a man) the book is pretty female centric and I loved that the female representation was just…there. There was no political point, no-one in the story told Spensa she couldn’t be a pilot because she was a girl – indeed, the head of the defensive federation is a woman and the pilots seemed to be a 50/50 mix of men and women. The book could do easily have gone down the Handmaid’s Tale route, forcing women to keep popping out babies in order to ensure the survival of a small population against a vast number of enemies but Sanderson clearly chose to make Spensa his rebellious MC for reasons other than her gender. I personally found this a refreshing change (and I say that as a feminist – I just think that trope has been done too many times).

I also really, really loved the fact that there was no bloody romance taking up space in the life of a girl who simply wanted to kill space aliens and avenge the death of her father. It was soooo great not to have to deal with cringey teenage attempts at flirting, although I suspect there might be some of that coming in the next instalment *sigh*.

Overall, I loved Skyward from the first sentence to the last. Some parts should have been boring (protracted battle flights filled with technical detail, endless comments about mushrooms) yet somehow Sanderson absolutely nailed it.

Have you read Skyward? Do you enjoy books with strong female leads? Let me know in the comments! 

 

Calendar Girls February: Favourite Book by a Black Author

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls february

…and my top pick is…

Lullaby/The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani*

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Taken from Goodreads…

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered… 

I’ve just finished reading Lullaby and I honestly couldn’t put it down. The book is super tense, written in an unusual style (you know what happens in the first few pages; the narrative then goes back to explain how it all happened.) Even though the characters are all horrible people, you get completely drawn into their lives and I spent the whole book trying to psychologically profile them and even apportioning blame (which is a terrible, judgemental thing to do, even to fictional characters). I loved the different cultural norms that were explored, especially in relation to race and social status and I think that perspective could have only been written so sensitively by an author of colour.

I listened to a podcast where this book was being discussed and one of the contributors said that she had to DNF Lullaby because it hit too close to home. I can completely understand that – the book is an exploration of imperfect family life, guilt about not being a good enough mother and having the worst thing that can happen to you actually happen, so it obviously hits quite a lot of sensitive areas.

Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lullaby and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced domestic thriller.

Have you read Lullaby? Do you have any bookish plans for Black History month?Let me know in the comments! 

*I’ve taken “black author” to include mixed race people so while I’m not entirely sure of Leila Slimani’s heritage, she gets included in a lot of articles about people of colour so I’d say she counts for the purposes of this post.

Calendar Girls January: Most Anticipated 2019 Release

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads.  It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls january

…and my response is…

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

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So even though I’ve already read this book as an ARC, it’s not released until 10th January and I am SUPER excited to see what everyone else thinks about it!!! I even made a Pinterest board to show off how how gorgeous it is:

The novel follows on from The Girl in the Tower, after Vasya has travelled to Moscow from her village where she has been cast out as a witch. There will be thrills, spills – and an explosive conclusion to the series!

I love the Winternight trilogy for many reasons – Vasya is a fearless heroine, defiant about the rules governing her as a woman and strong in a way that isn’t purely based on macho “I’ll fight them at their own game” tactics. The stories are wonderfully written, combining folklore and history to create an utterly immersive world. They don’t shy away from the harsh realities of fourteenth century life but the grittiness lends itself to the starkly beautiful setting. I also adored how dark the books are – just the right side of creepy – giving a deeply atmospheric air to an utterly spellbinding fairytale.

So, what’s your most anticipated release of 2019? Have you read The Winter of the Witch? Let me know in the comments! 

Calendar Girls December: Best Book Set in Winter

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer ReadsIt is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…


My initial reaction was TheBearandtheNightingaleTheBearand theNightingaleTheBearandtheNightingale!!!! (I really do love that book). However, I mentioned it in my previous Calendar Girls post when I chose the sequel, The Girl in the Tower, as my favourite book in the middle of a series so I thought I’d go for something completely different. Like, completely different.

So, my December pick is…

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I have to say – this book is not for the faint hearted. It takes it’s title from the Morissey song “Let the Right One Slip In” and if you thought that was bleak…this probably isn’t the book for you.

Let The Right One In is one of the most creepily atmospheric books I’ve ever read. Set in a run down suburb of 1980’s Sweeden, it’s main character Oskar is a bullied twelve year old with dreams of violent retribution. The arrival of a new neighbour called Eli gives Oskar his first real friend, but there’s something a bit…off about her. Who is the weird guy that she lives with? Why does she only come out at night? And does she have anything to do with the murder of a local teenager who was found drained of his blood?

Everything about the book is creepy, weird and just a bit off-kilter. The characters all seen to be depressed, angry or filled with self loathing. Seeing the book in the Sweedish Winter adds to the bleak atmosphere. There are a series of horrible twists and turns that lead to some really disturbing scenes – none of that sparkly vampire nonsense. It really is graphic and I’m sure a lot of readers will be turned off by that.

HOWEVER…

This isn’t just a cheap shock horror novel. At it’s heart is a slightly twisted but nonetheless sweet, kind friendship between Oskar and Eli – and it’s their relationship that compelled me to keep reading. This isn’t so much a vampire novel as a story of two outcasts finding a mutual bond in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s brilliantly written, well paced and complex and it invoked pretty much every emotion that I possess. I wouldn’t even call myself a horror fan but I absolutely loved it – my friend called it a horror book for people who don’t like horror which I think is pretty accurate. 

So, have you read Let the Right One In? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 

Calendar Girls November: Favourite Middle Book in a Series

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

Despite not having finished the trilogy (I’ve just been turned down for the final ARC 😢) I had to choose one of my favourite books of recent years…The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.


I absolutely adored the first installment of the Winternight trilogy (The Bear and the Nightingale – terrible review from years ago here) but the sequel is where Katherine Arden really hits her stride as an author. 
The Winternight Trilogy is the story of Vasilisa, a young girl living in medieval Russia. She has a quiet life in a rural village, despite the fact that she’s inherited her mother’s gift to see the spirits that protect their agricultural way of life. As Christianity begins to make the villagers forget their old gods, the power of the good spirits weakens and the village becomes threatened. Vasilisa has to flee her home and immediately stumbles into trouble, being dragged ever deeper into the battle between good and evil. Is she strong enough to protect her people?

There’s a bit of everything in this story. Intrigue, romance, magic…The Girl in the Tower has it all. I think that one of the best things about the book is the usage of language. It is just so. beautifully. written. You could turn to any page and get at least one exquisite quote. I loved how descriptive the storytelling was, and because the novel is set in Russia the dark, snowy environment leant itself perfectly to such a magical, dark fairytale. It was incredibly atmospheric and evocative, and I loved how Katherine Arden wove Russian words into the narrative in such a way that you understood their meaning even though they bore no resemblance to their English counterparts. So clever.

I really noticed the development of the characters from book one and I loved how we got to find out more about each of them now that they had grown up a bit. I was initially worried that this novel would be the awkward middle bit, where everything is set up for a big finale but not much happens, but it isn’t at all like that. Instead, The Girl in the Tower could almost be read as a stand alone novel as it has a proper beginning, middle and end and a narrative arc all of it’s own.

There are so many other brilliant things about this story that I could go on for hours – the use of “real” Russian mythology, the family dynamics, the relationship between Vasya and her horse Solovey…but I would literally be here for days. You should probably just go and read it for yourselves 😜

So, have you read The Girl in the Tower? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 


Calendar Girls October: Best Book With Witches

​Hello friends! Welcome to another edition of The Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

Oooh, topical! 

When I started looking at options for this category I was amazed at just how many of my favourite novels have witches in them. Again, there’s one incredibly obvious choice that I’m not going to go for but I feel like I have to at least acknowledge some of the brilliant books that I didn’t pick. So, honourable mentions go to:

– Terry Pratchett (various books, all brilliant)

– Neil Gaiman for Stardust and possibly The Ocean at the End of the Lane (are the Hempstocks witches?)

– Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together for Good Omens (highly recommended)

– Roald Dahl for The Witches (which absolutely terrified me as a child)

– Helen Nicoll for Meg and Mog (adorable children’s book)

– Katherine Arden for The Bear and the Nightingale (debatable whether Vasilisa is a witch – I’m guessing this might be revealed in the final instalment of the trilogy)

However, despite the sheer abundance of options my pick is…

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy


Argh, I have soooo many fond memories of reading this book as a child. I loved the character of Mildred Hubble and reading about how she was literally the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, making enemies of the smarmy Ethel Hallow and getting witchery totally wrong. The book contains all of the classic children’s book tropes (doing the right thing, perseverance, strict teachers being harsh but fair) but never comes across as preachy or holier-than-thou. There’s a whole series of Worst Witch books and I loved them all for their fast pacing, easy reading style and the sheer likeability of Mildred and her friends.

It was also a great mid 90’s kids TV programme that I weirdly still remember all the words in the theme tune to.

https://youtu.be/YQgW_v9ReDk

Also, check out the Moaning-Myrtle-a-like! I knew I’d seen that witch somewhere before…

So, have you read The Worst Witch? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 



Calendar Girls September: Best Novel Set in a School

Yay, it’s time for to take part in the Calendar Girls meme again! That came around quick! 

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

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Books set in a school? Hmmmm…😜

There’s one incredibly obvious choice for this category but I thought (as usual) that I’d be a bit different and choose a book that might be focused around a school but whose main characters are the parents, not the kids. Also, I was shamelessly able to use my own review of the book to write this post (bonus!)

My pick is…

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty


The book is based around three women whose children are all starting at the same school. There’s Madeline, the down to earth, making-it-up-as-she-goes-along mum; Celeste, the beautiful, rich, slightly vacant mum; and Jane, the downtrodden young mum. The three women become friends, but an incident involving Jane’s son and another little girl creates escalating tension between all of the parents at the school. Everyone seems to have their own take on the matter, and as the parents form allegiances they’re forced to act in a way that protects their own secrets from becoming public knowledge. As the parents become more polarised, emotions are heightened until everything comes to a head at a fateful school fancy dress party – the scene of a terrible crime.

Big Little Lies is written partly in the format of a police investigation, so the reader instantly knows that the story is going to end in some kind of criminal incident. I really liked the way that the narrative was often juxtaposed with a witness statement from another parent which put a totally different spin on the situation – it was really cleverly done and showed how perceptions can be so distorted based on our own prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Despite the playground politics and petty bitchiness, there’s a central theme of strong female friendship and loyalty which was really refreshing to read about. I loved how different Madeline, Celeste and Jane were, yet they all found common ground and faced many of the same issues. I also loved how the different family types were shown – the single parent, the blended family and the traditional two parent setup, and the problems and pitfalls of each.

The book is very female-centric and there’s a fantastic portrayal of lots of different female relationships – as wives, friends, parents, enemies, grandparents, step parents, victims…the list goes on. All of the characters were totally unique and I loved watching their lives unfold based on the way that they reacted to each other.

I loved the ending to the book and the big plot twist that I didn’t see coming. I can’t believe the novel is 480 pages long – I tore through it as it was really fast paced and the characters were all really interesting and well developed.

I’m sure that Big Little Lies will get tarred with the “chick lit” brush but this isn’t some silly romance, it’s a really unique psychological thriller – that just happens to be based at the school gates. It reminded me a lot of Desperate Housewives (season one, before it went downhill) so any fans of that will definitely enjoy it, although I think there’s something in it for everyone.